Trains disrupted after thieves risk their lives to steal 320m of cable
The theft of 320 metres of signalling cable caused massive delays on the national train service yesterday.
Thieves risked their lives to steal the cable on a section of the line between Newbridge and Kildare in the early hours of yesterday morning, knocking out the sophisticated automatic signalling system used to regulate the movement of trains.
This caused long delays to trains to and from Heuston Station. But because the entire rail system is linked, there were knock-on effects to services far and wide.
Delays were as long as 90 minutes initially as Irish Rail workers switched to a manual signalling system, and eventually came down to 45 minutes at the peak of morning journeys.
"Not only were services on the Kildare line affected, but services from Cork, Limerick and Waterford also," said Irish Rail spokeswoman Jane Gregan.
The breakdown in signalling was first reported by Irish Rail via its social media accounts as being as a result of vandalism.
On its website, the operator said there was "major disruption to services into and out of Heuston and Phoenix Park Tunnel services due to overnight vandalism of signalling equipment".
But information boards in Heuston Station displayed more detail - attributing the problem to cable theft.
"Around 320 metres of cable was stolen and the crews had to work to replace it to get the automatic signal system back up and running," said Ms Cregan.
Initial delays started at around 6.30am.
There was further confusion for passengers because Irish Rail's app and realtime departures information on its website takes its information from the signalling system.
As a result, information for trains into and out of Heuston and Phoenix Park tunnel services was not accurate.
Ms Cregan said cable theft does happen from time to time and the company works closely with gardaí on the matter.
"This was the third instance of cable theft in this area in six years. Costs for replacement of the cable this time was in the region of €4,000," she added.
"Whoever engages in this activity is putting themselves at huge risk because there is live electricity in the system.
"It also causes massive disruption to rail passengers and diverted signalling workers from other work that was planned for the day."
An Garda Síochána confirmed that it was investigating the theft of the signalling cable.
"Gardaí are investigating a theft of cable from a train line that occurred on Wednesday morning, October 9, on the Melitta Road, Kildare," a spokesman said.
"No arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing."